Repairing the hip without replacing it

People with constant hip pain can't do a lot of simple tasks such as getting into a car or walking a short distance without wincing.

A new approach to surgery repairs the hip instead of replacing it. It's a procedure that's putting younger patients on the fast track to recovery.

Jillian Richardson isn't one to normally take the easy route especially when it comes to exercise.

The 26-year-old played competitive volleyball for years and was recently training for a marathon. And then something in her right hip started to feel strange.

"It's an annoying pain. Right now it feels like it's catching, like my hip is trying to pull out but can't," said Richardson.

Jillian has had other sports related injuries but developing a hip problem at such a young age seemed odd.

It turns out her pain comes from a condition called hip impingement. It can strike at any age. But adults who are athletic tend to have the most problems. Wear and tear over time unmasks the trouble.

When the hip is healthy the head of the femur or the ball is round and fits nicely into the base of the pelvis. Hip impingement is caused by a lack of room or clearance for the misshapen ball.

"Instead of having a round ball and round socket, you have a mushroom shaped ball and a round socket and it doesn't work," said Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, orthopedic surgeon, Rush University Medical Center.

Dr. Bush-Joseph is one of a few surgeons repairing hips with an arthroscopic procedure.

In the past, younger patients usually had to wait unit the joint had deteriorated enough to require a full hip replacement.

Now, through very small incisions and with specialized tools surgeons can reshape the bone and even repair tears to cartilage.

"Less muscle damage. Smaller incisions, smaller risks and quicker recovery," said Dr. Bush-Joseph.

Compared to a hip replacement, the arthroscopic approach requires no hospital stay; patients don't need to take blood thinners; and the recovery time is nearly cut in half.

"I was at the end of my limit with the pain," said Richardson.

Sarah Harris, 34, had enough of trying to live with the pain. She opted for the new approach and, five weeks after surgery, Sarah is learning what it's like to live without pain.

"I feel fabulous, absolutely fabulous," said Harris.

"It's same day surgery. People come and go," Dr. Mark Lawler, Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

Jillian made the trip from Bloomington, Illinois to see if this procedure could help her pain. She seems to be an excellent candidate and will have the surgery.

"He said it will take a couple of months to be where I want to be but thinks I will be able to continue with my physical activities and go back to training for a marathon."

The procedure not to be confused with hip resurfacing which is much more involved.

Dr. Bush-Joseph emphasizes that patients with significant arthritis would not qualify for the arthroscopic treatment.

For less severe cases of hip impingement there are more conservative therapies, Including physical therapy and cortisone shots.

For more information, visit the following Web sites:

- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

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